From royalty to rugby, to teletubbies: New biographies

It’s November and we’ve got another bumper crop of biographies hitting the shelves for you all to enjoy.  From royalty to rugby, teenagers to Tellytubbies, saints to sinners, there’s something for everyone.

To see what else is new in our collection, go to what’s new & popular (wcl.govt.nz)

Women like us : a memoir / Prowse, Amanda
“Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side. One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible–against the odds–to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Napoleon : the decline and fall of an empire : 1811-1821 / Broers, Michael
“In 1811, Napoleon stood at his zenith: he had defeated all of his continental rivals, had an heir on the way with his new wife, and his personal life was calm and secure. Within two years all of this was in peril. Broers delivers a dynamic new history covering the last chapter of the emperor’s life. Drawing on Napoleon’s personal correspondence, his history follows Napoleon’s thoughts and feelings as he fought to preserve the world he had created. The sheer determination of Tsar Alexander and the British to bring Napoleon down is a story of compromise and sacrifice.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Acne : a memoir / Chinn, Laura
“Laura Chinn tells her by turns horrifying and hilarious story of growing up with non-conformist, irresponsible parents and countless family tragedies (and really bad, chronic acne) and how she found happiness despite everything.” (Catalogue)

To love and be loved : a personal portrait of Mother Teresa / Towey, Jim
“Author Jim Towey had been a high-flying Congressional staffer and lawyer in the 1980s until a brief meeting with Mother Teresa illuminated the emptiness of his life. He began volunteering at one of her soup kitchens and using his legal skills and political connections to help the Missionaries of Charity. When Mother Teresa suggested he take shifts at her AIDS hospice, Towey realized he was all in. Soon, he gave up his job and possessions and became a full-time volunteer for Mother Teresa. To Love and Be Loved is a firsthand account of Mother Teresa’s last years, and the first book ever to detail her dealings with worldly matters. We see her gracefully navigate the opportunities and challenges of leadership, the perils of celebrity, and the humiliations and triumphs of aging. We also catch her indulging in chocolate ice cream, making jokes about mini-skirts, and telling the President of the United States he’s wrong.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Diana : remembering the Princess : reflections on her life twenty-five years on / Wharfe, Ken
“On the twenty-fifth anniversary of her death, this intimate and enlightening book explores the legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her influence on the monarchy, on her sons and on wider social attitudes. An authoritative book, written with two close friends of Diana: Inspector Ken Wharfe was Diana’s police protection officer for six years during the most turbulent period of her marriage to Prince Charles. Ros Coward was chosen as author of the official book by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Trust.” (Catalogue)

Over the hills and far away : my life as a Teletubby / Smedley, Nikky
“Say ‘Eh-Oh’ to the performer behind the beloved Teletubby Laa-Laa … When children’s TV programme Teletubbies first aired in 1997, no one expected the cult status it would achieve. Propelled by a unique blend of educational theory, child psychology and linguistics, the show went on to air in 45 languages in 120 countries, win multiple BAFTA Awards, and achieve viewing figures of three billion a year. In a memoir as lively and funny as the programme itself, Nikky Smedley lifts the curtain on what it was like to be a Teletubby and takes us behind the magical scenes of a global phenomenon.” (Catalogue)

Billy Wallace : a true rugby legend / Dwyer, Denis
“In 1905 Billy Wallace was selected to represent New Zealand, touring the British Isles, France and North America, as part of a rugby team that became known as The Original All Blacks. It was during this landmark tour that Billy Wallace showed the rest of the world how the game should be played. Wallace’s rugby career highlights include: scoring the first points for New Zealand in an international test match; being the first Kiwi to score 500 points in first-class rugby; holding the New Zealand record for the most points scored in a single All Blacks match for 46 years. To this day Wallace holds the world record for the most points scored on a rugby tour by any player. Including previous unseen rugby archive and family photographs, this fascinating biography tells the complete story of the life and career of Billy Wallace, a true rugby legend.” (Catalogue)

Zelensky : a biography / Rudenko, Serhiĭ
“Three years after the political novice Volodymyr Zelensky was elected to Ukraine’s highest office, he found himself catapulted into the role of war-time leader. The former comedian has become the public face of his country’s courageous and bloody struggle against a brutal invasion. Born to Jewish parents in central Ukraine, Zelensky campaigned for the presidency in the 2019 election on the promise to restore trust in politics. After his landslide victory, he told jubilant supporters ‘I will never let you down.’ Little did he know that he would be called upon to serve his people in the most demanding circumstances imaginable, fighting for the very survival of his country in the worst war on European soil since 1945. Zelensky’s leadership in the face of Russia’s aggression is an inspiration to everyone who stands opposed to the appalling violence being unleashed on Ukraine. This book tells his astonishing story.” (Catalogue)

Jersey breaks : becoming an American poet / Pinsky, Robert
“In late-1940s Long Branch, an historic but run-down Jersey Shore resort town, in a neighborhood of Italian, Black, and Jewish families, Robert Pinsky began his unlikely journey to becoming a poet. Descended from a bootlegger grandfather, an athletic father, and a rebellious tomboy mother, Pinsky was an unruly but articulate high-school C-student whose obsession with the rhythms and melodies of speech inspired him to write. Pinsky traces the roots of his poetry, with its wide and fearless range, back to the voices of his neighborhood, to music and a distinctly American tradition of improvisation, with influences including Mark Twain and Ray Charles, Marianne Moore and Mel Brooks, Emily Dickinson and Sid Caesar, Dante Alighieri and the Orthodox Jewish liturgy. Jersey Breaks offers a candid self-portrait and, underlying Pinsky’s notable public presence and unprecedented three terms as poet laureate of the United States, a unique poetic understanding of American culture.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dinners with Ruth : a memoir on the power of friendships / Totenberg, Nina
“Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story’s heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. Ruth drew Nina out of grief during the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina’s first husband; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth’s beloved husband died. They shared a love of opera and shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth’s last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were “reserved for Ruth” in Nina’s house.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All signs point to Paris : a memoir of love, loss and destiny / Sizlo, Natasha
“Divorced, broke, and heartsick, it seems like things can’t get worse for Natasha Barrett-then she learns her beloved father is dying. So when she’s gifted a session with LA’s most sought-after astrologist, Natasha has nothing to lose. She doesn’t believe in astrology, but the reading is eerily, impossibly accurate. As her misgivings give way, Natasha asks about her emotionally unavailable, yet terribly handsome ex-boyfriend, the one she can’t seem to get over. To Natasha’s surprise, the astrologist tells her he is The One. His birthdate and birthplace-November 2, 1968 in Paris, France-line up with Natasha’s astrological point of destiny. The word husband comes up in the reading. Natasha feels faint. Was her ex really the big soul love she was destined for? Then, she has a lightning bolt of an idea: he couldn’t possibly be the only available man born on November 2, 1968 in Paris. Her soulmate is still out there-she just has to find him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Life’s work : a memoir / Milch, David
“From the start, Milch’s life seems destined to echo that of his father, a successful if drug-addicted surgeon. Almost every achievement is accompanied by an act of self-immolation, but the deepest sadnesses also contain moments of grace. Betting on race horses and stealing booze at eight years old, mentored by Robert Penn Warren and excoriated by Richard Yates at twenty-one, Milch never did anything by half. He got into Yale Law only to be expelled for shooting out street lights with a shotgun. He paused his studies at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to manufacture acid in Cuernavaca. He created and wrote some of the biggest, most lauded television series of all time, made a family and pursued sobriety, and then lost his fortune betting horses just as his father had taught him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

An accidental icon : how I dodged a bullet, spoke truth to power and lived to tell the tale / Scott, Norman
“In October 1975 an assassin tried to murder Norman Scott on Exmoor but the trigger failed and he only succeeded in shooting Scott’s beloved dog, Rinka. Scott subsequently found himself at the centre of a major political scandal and became an unlikely queer icon. But this was never his intention… He was born in 1940 into a poor, dysfunctional and abusive family. Aged sixteen he began an equestrian career, animals having been the one source of comfort in his childhood. By the age of twenty he had run into debts and had suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1960 Scott began a sexual affair with Jeremy Thorpe. By the time of the attempted assassination of Scott, Thorpe was married, leader of the Liberal Party and a figure at the heart of the establishment. He was embarrassed by their former relationship and wanted to cover it up. But he failed. The assassination attempt culminated in a sensational trial in 1979, where Thorpe was tried for conspiracy to murder. The press labelled Scott a madman and the establishment protected Thorpe, who was acquitted. Only recently has Scott’s version of events been vindicated. An Accidental Icon tells a story that is inspiring and jaw droppingly unbelievable: it is the tale of the courage and survival of one man who took on the establishment” (Catalogue)

New Biographies and Memoirs

From a rugby player fighting dementia to a wild woman of history, the working class kids to one of the most iconic women of our times, we have some fantastic new biographies and memoirs in our collection this month.

Unforgettable : rugby, dementia and the fight of my life / Thompson, Steve“Unforgettable is at once a powerful, affecting sports memoir from a true giant of rugby, and a raw call to arms to safeguard the sports we love and all those who play them.” (Catalogue)

Thief, convict, pirate, wife : the many histories of Charlotte Badger / Ashton, Jennifer“Charlotte Badger is a woman around whom many stories have been woven: the thief sentenced to death in England and then transported to New South Wales; the pirate who joined a mutiny to take a ship to the Bay of Islands; the first white woman resident in Aotearoa; the wife of a rangatira, and many more. The author shows how history and historical figures like Charlotte Badger are made and remade over time by journalists and historians, painters and playwrights. Thief, Convict, Pirate, Wife is the fascinating story of a remarkable, curious, ordinary woman and her place in history.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The all of it : a bogan rhapsody / Bell, Cadance“Seven years ago, Ben was loveless, overweight, in debt and living in his parents’ rumpus room, trying to find a way to quietly die. Days passed by in a haze of marijuana smoke and self-loathing. Then, one day, Ben decided not to die. He decided to change everything – starting with the Ben bit. Becoming Cadance would be more than a gender transition. It would be a transition in every way. It would mean leaving behind a rural Mudgee childhood filled with Frogger, hot chips, Godliness and a forbidden love of Sarah Parker’s My Little Pony; and the violence, drugs and secrecy that plagued her twenties. Choosing to live was just the beginning; what mattered was how she existed. She was going to experience the all of it.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Corrections in ink : a memoir / Blakinger, Keri“An elite, competitive figure skater growing up, Keri Blakinger poured herself into the sport, even competing at nationals. But when her skating partnership ended abruptly, her world shattered. With all the intensity she saved for the ice, she dove into self-destruction. From her first taste of heroin, the next nine years would be a blur-living on the streets, digging for a vein, selling drugs and sex, eventually plunging off a bridge when it all became too much, all while trying to hold herself together enough to finish her degree at Cornell. Then, on a cold day during Keri’s senior year, the police stopped her. Caught with a Tupperware container full of heroin, she was arrested and ushered into a holding cell, a county jail, and finally into state prison. There, in the cruel “upside down,” Keri witnessed callous conditions and encountered women from all walks of life-women who would change Keri forever.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Muddy people : a Muslim coming of age / El Sayed, Sara“A quick, clever, warm-hearted debut about growing up in an Egyptian-Muslim family. Sara is growing up in a family with a lot of rules. Her mother tells her she’s not allowed to wear a bikini, her father tells her she’s not allowed to drink alcohol, and her grandmother tells her to never trust a man with her money. After leaving Egypt when Sara was only six years old, her family slowly learns how to navigate the social dynamics of their new home. Sara feels out of place in her new school. Her father refuses to buy his coworkers a ginger beer, thinking it contains alcohol. Her mother refuses to wear a hijab, even if it would help them connect with other local Muslims. And Sara learns what it feels like to have a crush on a boy, that some classmates are better friends than others, and that her parents are loving, but flawed people who don’t always know what’s best for her, despite being her strongest defenders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Coconut / Olajide, Florence“1963, North London. Nan fosters one-year-old Florence Ọlájídé and calls her ‘Ann.’ Florence adores her foster mother more than anything but Nan, and the children around her, all have White skin and she can’t help but feel different. Then, four years later, after a weekend visit to her birth parents, Florence never returns to Nan. Two months after, sandwiched between her mother and father plus her three siblings, six-year-old Florence steps off a ship in Lagos to the fierce heat of the African sun. Swapping the lovely, comfortable bed in her room at Nan’s for a mat on the floor of the living room in her new home, Florence finds herself struggling to adjust. She wants to embrace her cultural heritage but doesn’t speak Yoruba and knows nothing of the customs. Clashes with her grandmother, Mama, the matriarch of the family, result in frequent beatings. Torn between her early childhood experiences and the expectations of her African culture, she begins to question who she is. Nigerian, British, both?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Annie’s boy / Todd, Gary“Annie’s Boy is a coming-of-age story as seen through the eyes of a boy and his mum living in Scotland in the 1970s and 80s where fear, violence and struggle was an everyday part of life. It is a story of hope and quiet courage and perseverance that will take you on an emotional roller coaster that spans over fifteen years of their lives and what they did to survive. Gary and his mother lived in fear at the intimidation and violence that came from his father. At the age of ten, he agreed to testify against his father in court to try and stop the ordeal from continuing. The book is also a look at the tough and gritty life of Dundee during the period.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The gift of a radio : my childhood and other trainwrecks / Webb, Justin“Justin Webb’s memoir of his 1970s upbringing is as much a portrait of a strange decade in our history as of his own dysfunctional childhood. Justin Webb’s childhood was far from ordinary. Between his mother’s un-diagnosed psychological problems, and his step-father’s untreated ones, life at home was dysfunctional at best. But with gun-wielding school masters and sub-standard living conditions, Quaker boarding school wasn’t much better. And the backdrop to this coming of age story? Britain in the 1970s. Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Free. Strikes, inflation and IRA bombings. A time in which attitudes towards mental illness, parenting and masculinity were worlds apart from the attitudes we have today. A society that believed itself to be close to the edge of breakdown.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Yoko Ono : an artful life / Brackett, Donald“For more than sixty years, Yoko Ono has fascinated us as one of the world’s most innovative, radical artists. From a childhood of both extraordinary privilege and extreme deprivation in war-time Japan, she adopted an outsider’s persona and moved to America where, after a spell at Sarah Lawrence College, she made a place for herself in bohemian arts circles. She was already twice divorced and established as a performance artist in the Fluxus movement and in Tokyo’s avant-garde scene before her fortuitous meeting with the Beatles’ John Lennon at a London Gallery in 1966. Their intense yet fraught relationship, reputed to have blown-up the Beatles, made headlines around the world, as did their famous bed-ins in protest of the Vietnam war, and their majestic, Grammy-winning musical collaborations. Through it all, and for decades after Lennon’s tragic death, she remained defiantly herself. Yoko Ono: An Artful Life charts her journey of personal turmoil, artistic evolution, and activism, and at last tells her iconic story on her own terms.” (Catalogue)

To see what else is new in our collection, go to what’s new & popular (wcl.govt.nz)